Turning Individuals into team Player

There is always a strong case for the value and growing popularity of teams. But all people are not inherently team players. There are also many organizations that have historically nurtured individual accomplishments. They have created competitive work environments in which only the strong survive. If these organizations adopt teams, what do they do about the selfish, I’ve got to look out for me employees that they’ve created? Finally, countries differ of how the rate on individualism and collectivism. Teams fit well with countries that score high on collectivism. But what if an organization wants to introduce teams into a work population that is made up largely of individuals born and raised in an individualistic society? As one writer aptly puts it in describing the role of teams in the United States as Americans don’t grow up learning how to function in teams. In school they never receive team report card or learn the names of the team of sailors who traveled with Columbus to America. This limitation would obviously be just Canadians, British, Australians and others from individualistic societies.

The Challenge:

The previous points are meant to dramatize that one substantial barrier to using work teams is individual resistance. An employee’s success is no longer defined in terms of individual performance. To perform well as team members, individuals must be able to communicate openly and honestly, to confront differences and resolve conflicts, and to sublimate personal goals for the good of the team. For many employees, this is a difficult – sometimes impossible – task. The challenge of creating team players will be greatest when (1) the national culture is highly individualistic and (2) the teams are being introduced into an established organization that has historically valued individual achievement. This describes, for instance, what faced managers at AT&T, Ford, Motorola and other large US based companies. These firms prospered by hiring and rewarding corporate stars, and they bred a competitive climate that encouraged individual achievement and recognition. Employees in these types of firms can be jolted by this sudden shift to the importance of team play. A veteran employee of a large company who had done well working alone, described the experience of joining a team: “I’m learning my lesson I just had my first negative performance appraisal in 20 years”.

On the other hand, the challenge for management is less demanding when teams are introduced where employees have strong collectivist values – such as in Japan or Mexico – or in new organizations that use teams as their initial form for structuring work. Saturn Corp., for instance is an American organization owned by General Motors. The company was designed around teams from its inception. Everyone at Saturn was hired with the knowledge that they would be working in teams. The ability to be a good team player was a basic hiring qualification that had to be met by all new employees.

Shaping Team Players:

The following summarizes the primary options managers have for trying to turn individuals into team players.

Selection: Some people already possess the interpersonal skills to be effective team players. When hiring team members, in addition to the technical skills required to fill the job care should be taken to ensure that candidates can fulfill their team roles as well as technical requirements.

Training: On a more optimistic note a large proportion of people raised on the importance of individual accomplishments can be trained to become team players. Training specialists conduct exercises that allow employees to experience the satisfaction that teamwork can provide. They typically offer workshops to help employees improve their problem-solving communication, negotiation, conflict management, and coaching skills. Employees also learn the five stage group development model. At Verizon, for example, trainers focus on how a team goes through various stages before it finally gels. And employees are reminded of the importance of patience because teams take longer to make decisions than do employees acting alone.

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